I remember back in the 1980s, a movie called "The Kid With the Broken Halo" which starred Gary Coleman as Andy LeBeau is a fallen angel of sorts. He keeps messing up and causing trouble in angel training. The archangel, Michael, decides to give him one more shot. His mission: Help out the problems of three cases. First, the Desautel family, who are on the edge of breaking up. Then, the McNulty family, who are workaholics. Finally, Dorothea Powell who is a secluded, grumpy old woman. Andy's guide on earth is Blake, who is none too thrilled to work with Andy. The lesson Andy has to learn is that "Man Proposes but God Disposes".
"Man Proposes but God Disposes," may come down to us as a direct translation from a work of devotion written in Latin by Thomas a Kempis.This work, his celebrated Of the Imitation of Christ, is the second most widely read christian text after the Bible itself. It contains many sensitively and wisely expressed insights into spirituality and morals.In Chapter 19 of Book 1 we find :-"For the resolutions of the just depend rather on the grace of God than on their own wisdom; and in Him they always put their trust, whatever they take in hand.For man proposes, but God disposes; neither is the way of man in his own hands".
I have been reflecting on this as my church continues to struggle with a percieved threat to its survival from without and within. It has been forced to critically examine the dynamic roles of dealing pastorally with the current regime and speaking prophetically and discerning God's will over self interest.
In the Book of Proverbs, attributed to Solomon the Wise, we read:
"A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps." Proverbs 16:9 and again in Proverbs 19:21:-"There are many devices in a man's heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand."
With these verses we may also compare Jeremiah 10:23:
"O Lord, I know, that the way of a man is not in himself; it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps."
St. Paul writes:
"It is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him. But God has revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. ...the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. " (1Cor 2)
Cyrus, Darius and Nebuchadnezzar were used as instruments of God's justice and vengence towards the Israelites when they broke God's covenant. What does this speak to us as Christians, as Methodists when we find ourselves faced by an attack from without?
I offer this only as a point for reflection and prayer. Let us pray and ask God to help us discern God's will in our situation, remembering God's faithfulness to God's people in the past, the promises of God and what that means for us in our time and in our country.
May you be blessed with the peace, love, light and hope of God.